Places: Tamar

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1924

Type of work: Poetry

Type of plot: Psychological

Time of work: World War I

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Carmel

*Carmel. TamarNorthern California town near Point Lobos, the location of the fictional Cauldwell ranch. Robinson Jeffers lived in Carmel while he wrote this poem. He placed many of his later works in the area, repeatedly emphasizing his belief that its wild environment influenced its inhabitants.

Cauldwell ranch

Cauldwell ranch. Pastures and an isolated family residence overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In the first segment of the poem, the drunken son Lee, traveling home in the dark from Monterey, falls from his horse and tumbles down a steep cliff, where he lies unconscious on the beach, nearly drowning in the incoming tide.

*Carmel region

*Carmel region. After his recovery, Lee reforms, but as he rides through the springtime beauty of the high pastures, he sharply misses his sister Tamar. The same earthy senses overcome Tamar, and later, while out riding with Lee, she seduces him. The narrator suggests that the two were driven to incest by the forces of the “wild rock coast” with its “beaten trees” or by the “wing-subduing immense earth-ending water.” Tamar soon discovers a family history of incest. Fearing exposure of her relations with Lee, she rides to meet her old suitor Will under the Mal Paso Bridge. Although she seeks help, Tamar is prey to the wild forces that drive her. As the fall season commences and local men set brush and pastures afire in order to cleanse the land, the Cauldwell family moves toward its own fiery destruction.

BibliographyBrophy, Robert J.“Tamar.” In Robinson Jeffers: Myth, Ritual, and Symbol in His Narrative Poems. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1976. Shows Robinson Jeffers’ use of Greek myth and world mythology to establish his view of humankind as fated to endure pain and suffering. Contains extensive bibliography on both Jeffers and myth criticism.Brophy, Robert J. “Tamar, The Cenci, and Incest.” American Literature 42, no. 2 (May, 1970): 241-244. Investigates the connections between Jeffers and the romantics through the incest theme as it appears in both Tamar and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s drama, The Cenci.Carpenter, Frederic I. “The Poetry of Myth: The Long Poems.” In Robinson Jeffers. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1962. Analyzes all Jeffers’ long narratives, with particular focus on Tamar. The best short introduction to Jeffers’ work. Contains bibliography.Hunt, Tim. “A Voice in Nature: Jeffers’ “Tamar” and Other Poems. American Literature 61, no. 2 (May, 1989): 230-244. Reprinted in slightly different form as “The Problematic Nature of ‘Tamar’ and Other Poems in Centennial Essays for Robinson Jeffers, ed. Robert Zaller. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991. Shows how Jeffers’ poetic concerns are reflected in the revision of Tamar and the other poems in the volume in which it was first collected.Zaller, Robert. “The Birth of the Hero.” In The Cliffs of Solitude. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1983. A psychological reading of the character Tamar, along with Jeffers’ other major protagonists. Contains bibliography.
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